Explaining Cricket to a (Baffled) American: They may have a Point
My friend Sam is a knowledgeable guy. If I need an explanation about an aspect of sport here in the States he’s on top of my list of guys to ask. He really gets sport and he knows the ins and outs of the system while still keeping a keen eye on his favourite teams.
I felt it my civic duty one evening to explain the merits of cricket to him. After all, someone with a sporting brain would pick it up easily and the merits of it would be obvious. Three hours later I realised those uneducated countries with no knowledge of the game might just have some very sound reasons for their total disinterest.
Me: So basically there are 11 players on a team. Everybody takes a turn to field and bat. When your team takes its turn to bat it’s called an innings. Each batsman’s turn to bat is also called an innings, and there are 11 individual innings in an innings. The last man in has to stop batting because he has run out of partners and there have to be two in batsmen for the innings to continue. He finishes the innings as the “not-out” batsman. Then it’s the turn of the fielding side to go in to bat and try and reach the score of the opposition.
Me: The innings is over when 10 wickets have been taken. That’s what the fielding team calls it when a batsman is out. Unless the batting team decides they have scored enough runs then they can declare the innings closed. Or, if they come to the end of the scheduled number of overs before all the wickets have fallen then the match is at an end. Then it’s a draw, unless it’s a limited-overs match.”
Sam: I think I’ll need another beer.
Me: Each batsman can face as many balls as possible until he is out, the innings comes to an end, or he retires himself. The fielding team tries to get him out by breaking his wicket with a bowled delivery, by catching the ball when he hits it in the air, or by hitting him with the ball in a line adjacent to his wicket – unless the ball pitches outside the leg stump, which is the part of the wicket closest to his legs as the batsman stands. The wickets are the three poles behind the batting crease. They are intact only when the bails are balanced on top. The wicket also describes the whole middle playing surface, with the designated pitch and the wickets at each end. Where was I?
Sam: The batter getting out.
Me: Batsman. He can also be run out if he is caught out of his crease when the wicket is broken – which reminds me – if he steps out of his crease when attempting to play a shot and the stumps are broken by the wicketkeeper then he is considered “stumped.” He can also be timed out if he takes too long to take the field after the last batsman has been dismissed, or if he interferes with the ball or fielding team during a play. If the ball is considered a no-ball, though, none of this applies except for run-outs.
Sam: Ok let me get this straight…
Me: …and the bowler has six deliveries in each of these overs, providing they are all declared legal by the umpire because he hasn’t overstepped the front or side lines of the crease, or because the fielders have moved behind the batsman after he has taken his stance, or in limited overs games if there are too many or too few fielders in the restricted area of the field, or if the ball is bowled higher than the waist height of the batsman. Oh and in tests if he bowls more than two bouncers per over. Then also if his delivery is called as a throw by the umpire.
Sam: What’s a limited overs game again?
Me: Oh, that’s easy. As I was saying, the game is divided up into innings, which are further divided up into overs. They consist of six legal deliveries. There are three kinds of international cricket: Limited Overs matches are classified as either One Day Internationals played over 50 overs or T20 Internationals played for 20 overs. In other words, 300 or 120 legal deliveries per innings for each format. These games are usually finished on the same day they start, but test matches take place over five days or less. There are 90 overs in a day, so 540 deliveries played over three sessions in a day for five days. Test matches consist of two innings for each team, unless one team dominates the other and beats them by an innings…
Me: …then the captain declares the innings closed and puts the opposition in to bat to see if he can bowl them out before they reach the total, or before the time runs out and the game is a draw. Basically if all four innings are not concluded by the end of the fifth day then the match is drawn, but this can feel like a win to the team that manages to bat for the fifth day without being bowled out, even though they don’t reach the opposition’s score.
Sam: Oh yeah, makes the whole five days totally worth it.
Me: But when it rains in an ODI, that’s when it gets really interesting. Let me tell you about the Duckworth-Lewis Method… Wait, where are you going?